What a Pleasure to Run With Our Pilot Interns
Every year around late May, anticipation always seems to build in The Pilot newsroom as we await the arrival of a new crop of interns.
They bring us such vibrancy and youthful enthusiasm during the all-too-short time they are here. We have been very fortunate to have had some outstanding interns during my 12 years here, and this year's group - Kirsten Ballard, Sarah Brown and Andrew Soboeiro (his second summer stint) - certainly kept that tradition alive.
It has been a pleasure getting to know them and work with them. But I have to admit that the bond I developed with Kirsten and Sarah has been very special and most unexpected. We ran in three 5K races this summer, becoming the unofficial Pilot team and having a blast.
As I discovered, running is very much a family affair for both of them, which afforded me an opportunity to get to know their families as well. I learned the day of our first event that Kirsten's dad has the same military background as my brother-in-law.
Sometime around mid-June, I heard the two of them talking about the Patriot Run 5K on July 4 at Pinecrest High School, my alma mater. It sounded fun, and it was for a great cause, benefiting a military organization called One Voice and the school's cross-country team.
I have done several 10Ks and two half-marathons over the years, so I piped up that I would love to join these two Carolina girls, who had already become fast and best friends. They eagerly accepted this "old" N.C. State guy to be part of the team. Sure, there was some good-natured trash-talking about our respective sports teams, but we shared the running bond.
Since the Patriot Run was Kirsten's first 5K, Sarah - who is a member of the cross-country club team at Chapel Hill - had agreed to run with Kirsten. Sarah was a natural as a coach and motivator, encouraging Kirsten along the way. When we made the last turn before the finish line, Kirsten shot off like a bottle rocket, crossing just ahead of me and Sarah. Kirsten's parents and sister - and Sarah's mom - also ran.
The second stop on our summer tour was the Peachy Feet 5K on July 20, which kicked off the Peach Festival in Candor. This was a race that Sarah badly wanted to win. She was the second overall female in last year's inaugural Peachy Feet. This year, she was the overall female winner.
Impressive! I was quite proud of my fellow team member and Pilot intern. She crossed the finish line at 21:03, a few seconds behind Eric Fogleman, one of these crazy ultra-marathon runners who grew up a few houses down from me in Aberdeen.
Sarah's mom also ran, along with Kirsten's parents - and this time, her younger brother. For the record, I was shooting for 26 minutes and missed my target by just 36 seconds. I knew right away that I had no chance of winning my age group with Eric running. But my real motivation was the free homemade peach ice cream offered to the runners. I ate one cup for each of the three miles I ran.
Our final stop was the Farmers Day 5K on Aug. 2, a new event that is part of the Bear Creek race series staged by Foothills Outdoors. We ran as a team on this one. This was the first time I have run a race where a good portion of the course is off-road. We went on a trail down a hill in a beautifully wooded area along the Bear Creek. It felt as if we were somewhere in the mountains.
Even though it was not a huge field, I can say proudly that I was second in my age group, and Sarah's mom, Monika, won her age division.
While this marked the end of the road for us as The Pilot team, we have been talking about running together in several more events. Sarah challenged me to come to Chapel Hill in the spring to run in the Tar Heel 10-miler, which I readily accepted. Kirsten says she will run it too.
It may sound cliche, but the sky is the limit for these young ladies in whatever they do in life. And I don't mean to slight Andrew, who is an outstanding young man.
So as we say farewell to them this week, I look forward to keeping up with my new running buddies. I hope this will be a long-running bond.
Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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